Ghana's Gaming Commission has seized more than 500 illegal analogue slot machines, as the country continues to push towards a more digital economy.
The old gambling machines were seized by the regulator across the country as part of its ongoing bid to ensure all slot machines in the gambling sector are electronic, to help plug tax leaks from the industry.
A spokesperson for the gambling regulator told local media the analogue machines also lack any verification processes to prevent underage people from playing on them.
The commission had called on members of the public and operators to turn in old-fashioned machines to avoid prosecution, just days prior to the announcement that a group of them had been destroyed.
Non-digital gambling machines also cause a potential compliance issue with Ghana’s 2020 Anti-Money Laundering Act, which requires the gambling regulator to ensure it has a record of all transactions.
“We have told the operators the specifications for the digital machines, so if you want to operate any form of the digital gaming machine, come to the commission, apply through the right processes and have your game on,” a Gaming Commission spokesperson told local media.
However, many operators are reportedly unaware of the regulator handing out notices in 2018 explaining the requirement to switch to digital.
The Gaming Commission is working with other authorities in the country, including the Local Government Service and District Assemblies to clamp down on any business licences handed out to people operating illegal gambling machines.
A shift from land-based to online gambling was accelerated by the government in 2020, following the temporary closure of land-based gambling venues, with some operators even given the right to run online casinos on their platforms during the country's lockdown.
The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), which is responsible for collecting taxes, has embarked on its own bid to ensure businesses in the country digitise, having set itself a target of raising GH$80.3bn (€9.8bn) for government coffers in 2022, a major increase from previous years.
GRA commissioner-general Ammishaddai Owusu-Amoah has earmarked gambling in local media interviews as an online industry not yet taxed properly that could help it reach its goal through a potential electronic transaction levy.
However, there are no published details of the tax as of yet and at the time of writing the GRA had not responded to a request for comment.
It is estimated that Ghana misses GH$300m (€44.7m) annually in tax revenue due to “leakages” in the gambling sector, according to a 2021 budget speech.